Life As A Gamer Dad: One Year Later
April 17th, 2013: a day that I thought would end my life as a gamer forever! I had already made the necessary adjustments that were required after the previous “life changing events” in my life, those being my first real full-time job and, of course, marriage. Each of those requires a significant amount time and dedication – especially marriage – in order to live happily. The only way you can achieve this is by making concessions in other areas, and usually the first things to go are your hobbies. Without a doubt, my biggest hobby is gaming, not because it’s a time-waster, but because video games have evolved into a full-fledged form of entertainment. Granted, I spend the majority of my gaming time playing online with friends and family, but I’m also a massive fan of the stories and worlds that developers have created for single player experiences. Up until last year, I still managed to find plenty of time to feed my gaming fix, but then something happened — though not unexpected. I was about to take the next big step in my life: becoming a father. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t scared about the very real possibility that my gaming career was coming to an end, as this next chapter of my life would require even more attention; I was responsible for another human being who was 100% dependent on my wife Melissa and I!
"I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t scared about the very real possibility that my gaming career was coming to an end, as this next chapter of my life would require even more attention; I was responsible for another human being... "
Leading up to my son’s birth, I had spent the preceding 9 months preparing myself for the “nightmare” that so many of my friends had warned me about based on their own experiences entering parenthood. I made it a point to try and do as much as possible for my wife on a daily basis so that she could just relax when she got home from work. This desire to help stemmed from the old saying, “Happy Wife, Happy Life!” Once I got into the routine of doing all those things guys love to do – dishes, laundry, etc. – I was rather surprised that I still found myself with a decent amount of free time, and I made sure to get my gaming in during these lapses. Despite getting into this routine, I kept telling myself, “Don’t get used to this, because once the little man show’s up, your gaming privileges are going to be reduced to nothing!” I hated thinking this way because no one wants to give up something they’ve been doing for so long; it’s hard to just say, “Welp, that’s it! All done!,” but I felt it was necessary to remind myself that it was a distinct possibility.
With only a few months left until D-Day, and the idea of retiring from gaming lingering over my head, I kept trying to think of ways I could prolong my favorite hobby; I wasn’t ready to concede defeat and hand in my gamer card just yet! I moved my PlayStation 3 upstairs into the living room to be closer to the baby's room; I was rocking the PlayStation Pulse Elite headphones to eliminate any noise while little man and/or the wife slept, and having the PlayStation Vita was going to be a blessing as well for those quick sessions when the baby was napping. By that time, I was excited as hell to finally meet my son and was anxiously awaiting his arrival; I felt I had prepared myself the best I could to maintain my favorite hobby (albeit in a much more limited capacity). One of the biggest reasons I wanted to keep my gaming career alive is because I wanted a hobby to share with my son; something we could do together. Some guy’s hunt with their kids, others play chess with their kids. The only hobbies I ever had time for anymore it seemed were playing video games and watching movies or sports; hobbies I wanted to share with my son more than anything.
"The only hobbies I ever had time for anymore it seemed were playing video games and watching movies or sports; hobbies I wanted to share with my son more than anything. "
On the night of April 16th, Melissa and I headed to the hospital because my son was just too stubborn (wonder where he got that from?) to arrive on his due date and she had to be induced. Looking back, one of the things that stands out to me is during this time was that, even though I had taken all these precautionary steps to keep my hobby alive, gaming hadn't crossed my mind at all. I was so focused on supporting Melissa and excited to finally meet my son; nothing else came remotely close to mattering. It’s as if I was maturing more in a week than I ever had in my previous 33 years of existence. At 4:51pm the next day, I watched my son Ethan enter into the world.
I held him in my arms, I looked him in his eyes, and I embraced that moment with Melissa.
I can’t even put into words the emotions or thoughts that I was overwhelmed with. This little dude in my arms was going to be my mini-me; my best friend. Immediately I started envisioning all the things I wanted to introduce him to, whether it was gaming, the original Star Wars trilogy, or Detroit Tigers baseball.
Now, the real test is when you’re finally back home, and it’s just you, your significant other, and your child. Gone are the nurses and doctors that help you out at the hospital while you adjust (see: get caught up on sleep!). You’re back in the comfort of your own home, and even the slightest glance at your gaming console will remind you that you’re a gamer; you'll start to get that urge again. The only difference now is that you have to tend to your baby who’s currently screaming at the top of his lungs! My cousin once told me, “Brent, it’s quite simple really. If the baby is crying, there are only three things you have to do: feed him, change his diaper, or burp him.” Come to think of it, those are usually the three main reasons why I get all bent out of shape and I’m 34 years old! His advice proved to be quite accurate, however, and for the most part those first three or four weeks were pretty easy to adjust to. If you adhere to my cousin’s words of wisdom, you’ll have a happy baby more often than not. There will always be exceptions to this, especially if your baby develops a nasty case of colic (which Ethan did), but if you work together with your significant other, it’s much easier to manage and keep the baby as comfortable as possible.
Now, that all might sound pretty chaotic and stressful – that’s because it is – but just like every other life changing experience, you have to adapt; you start to realize it’s not as chaotic as you once perceived it to be. It's just a change you can never fully prepare for. Once your mind and body get acclimated, you no longer see “nap time” as an opportunity to sit on the couch with a dazed and defeated looked, staring at the wall as you ask yourself, “What the f*** was I thinking?” Instead, you’ll find yourself peeking at your lonely gaming console that's looking right back at you as if it were saying, "Let's do this!" Once I got Ethan on a consistent schedule, it became easier to plan my gaming sessions. The moment I saw his eyes starting to close, I’d place him in his favorite swing and turn the fan on low – lights-out little man! I knew I had a good forty-five minutes to an hour at the most, and I had to take advantage of it. At the time I had just downloaded Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon, and once I started playing it, I felt like things were returning to normal. It gave me a sense of relief! It also helped that Blood Dragon was a kick-ass game!
"...just like every other life changing experience, you have to adapt; you start to realize it’s not as chaotic as you once perceived it to be. It's just a change you can never fully prepare for. "
Twelve months later, and life has become fully stable once again. I’m fully adjusted to the role of full-time dad, and I couldn’t be happier about it. I spend my mornings before work with Ethan, doing all the things that come with the job: changing poopy diapers, feeding him his meals, and getting him hooked on SportsCenter! When he’s playing in his bouncer or pack-n-play, I make sure to get as many things done around the house as I can so that I’m doing my part, and this allows Melissa to focus on Ethan when she gets home from work. I usually get home around 9:15 at night, and by that time Ethan is asleep and I get to spend time with my wife, either getting caught up on television shows or watching sports. When she goes to bed, that’s usually when I head downstairs to my gaming cave – my cathedral if you will – and go about my business doing what it is I love to do. Sure, I can’t play as long as I used to or every single night, but those were necessary changes I needed to make in order to be the father I’ve set out to be.
One thing I’ve really noticed about becoming a parent is just how much more sensitive you become to certain subject matters. A prime example of this is when I first played The Last of Us. There is one scene in particular at the beginning that hit me harder than I think it would’ve prior to being a dad; it was an effective scene because my emotions quickly got the best of me. It’s not just video games either. Any time I see a news story about a young child losing a battle with cancer or dying in an accident, I see it in a much different light, and it hits me like a ton of bricks. Having a kid not only matures you, it definitely softens you as well.
This year has been one the best years of my life, and while most of that has to do with the joys of watching my son grow, another portion of it is because our lives didn’t drastically change like we were worried they would. The only real bummer about being a gamer at this point is that Ethan is still too young to fully understand it. He looks at the screen, then looks at me with a confused look, and decides pulling off his socks and rolling off the couch is far more entertaining. I’ll be the first to admit, I don’t have a clue whether I will still be gaming a year from now; there’s so much I have yet to experience as a father. I’m here to tell you that having a child doesn’t mean you have to give up your hobbies, unless you choose to do so yourself for your own personal reasons. There are concessions that will have to be made, but you just need to utilize your free time efficiently. Once you accept your responsibility as a parent, you’ll adjust to the change and be back to “normal” in no time.